AFTER an encouraging start, the global cross-bred wool market proved extremely challenging in 2018 due to the unforeseen US-China trade war.

Increasing uncertainty over Brexit also impacted UK consumer confidence, reducing demand for carpet wool types.

Gareth Jones, the producer marketing manager at British Wool, provides further commentary, explaining the market situation and pricing in more detail.

“Against this backdrop of economic challenge, we feel that British Wool has performed relatively well, maintaining average prices in line with last season’s," he said.

"This is highlighted when benchmarking against the price of New Zealand cross-bred wool – historically our wool has sold at a 20 per cent discount, but our prices have been consistently higher during 2018.”

Mr Jones believes this success is due in part to a more strategic approach at auctions and the launch of an agency buyer in July 2018, making it easier for new buyers to access the auction.

“This initiative is already starting to have a material impact on competition in the auction room, which should help support our prices moving forward,” he added.

The prices paid by British Wool are consistently higher than those offered by direct from farm competition.

Mr Jones explained “The prices we offer have been consistently higher for a number of years, and early indications from 2019 indicate this gap will increase even further over the coming season.

"We’re working on many new initiatives to maximise the value of producers’ wool.”

Such initiatives include a new multi-channel end customer (consumer and commercial) marketing strategy which has gained real traction during the past 12 months with the implementation of a new brand licensing scheme.

Another significant and exciting development is the opening of a new office in Shanghai, targeting the largest and fastest growing middle class consumer market in the world.

Mr Jones said: “As well as implementing our brand licensing scheme in China, we are also looking for new product opportunities to help increase the value of producers’ wool.

"I am pleased to say that we have already received our first order for new products and anticipate good growth in this area over the coming 12 months.”

Mr Jones concluded: “We offer a unique proposition for UK wool producers – we’re dedicated to developing new market opportunities and delivering value for our producers.

"Our work aims to achieve our three key objectives – maximising the price paid for British wool, continuously seeking to improve cost effectively our reliable, convenient and trusted service to our producer members, and investing in and supporting the future of the wool industry through activities such as shearing training.”